Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I started this post last Tuesday, but didn't get back to it until eight days later. Snow, snow, snow absorbed a lot of time! But what was on my mind was the Mark Twain autobiography. It's a continuous source of joy. I was up to August 31, 1906 in volume 2 at that point.

I am just ticked by a couple of things I've read recently. First, he talks about writing as amanuensis. That the person is just holding the pen, and the words flow out; it isn't laborious at all. It is just transcription, the "writer" is just an effortless pass through. He believed when writing isn't like this, one must stop, let it brew, until the process naturally starts up again.

Next, he writes about going to Onteora for a visit. On October 9, 1906 he wrote:

Onteora was situated high up in the Catskill Mountains, in the [centre] of a far-reaching solitude. I do not mean that the region was wholly uninhabited; there were [farm-houses] here and there, at generous distances apart. Their occupants were descendants of ancestors who had built the houses in [Rip Van Winkle’s time], or earlier; and those ancestors [page 251] were not more primitive than were this posterity of theirs. The city people were as foreign and unfamiliar and strange to them as monkeys would have been, and they would have respected the monkeys as much as they respected these elegant [summer resorters]. The resorters were a puzzle to [them,] their ways were so strange and their interests so trivial. They drove the resorters over the mountain roads and listened in shamed surprise at their bursts of enthusiasm over the scenery. The farmers had had that scenery on exhibition from their mountain roosts all their lives, and had never noticed anything remarkable about it.

This article from the Chronicle made me think about how this money is being wasted in some cases. I am so thankful that this semester is the last one I will be teaching my Tuesday evening foundations class. It's a shame, really, as for many years it was my favorite section, but for the past couple of years, it has been nothing but trouble, and this semester is shaping up the same, sadly.

It isn't large (16) this spring, and I was hopeful that would make it better, but unfortunately that might make it worse! When there is a large enough proportion of students who are not engaged and put in little effort, there aren't enough average and serious students to dilute them, and it ruins the class.

Last night five students didn't show up, and I estimate that half of the students present had not done the reading. They were unresponsive, sat with their heads down, a couple texting on smartphones, others typing on laptops. I had an image of the prepared and participatory students harnessed and pulling a rope, hauling the millstones along. If it drives me crazy as the instructor, I can only imagine how the good students feel.

Are the slackers borrowing money for this? Are their parents giving them a free ride? Either way, they should not waste the money or time. Go get a job in retail for a few years, grow up and come back with some direction and work ethic.

Another rant. I've written before about the campus center dining situation being ruined after Aramark landed the contract in 2013. A few weeks ago I decided to give it another try, and was pleasantly surprised by a salad line (called something like "sticks & stems"). I discovered I could get a custom-made side salad for less than $3, or with avocado, less than $4.

So yesterday I ventured over there again. The line at Sticks & Stems was ridiculous, so I strolled (limped, lol) around to see if there was anything else appealing. Answer: No. The one place I tried was out of hummus. Is all students eat hot pretzels, subs, pizza, bagels and sushi?

I waited on the long Sticks & Stems line. Out of spinach. Wiped out of most other veggies, such as cucumbers. No blue cheese dressing. Salad wound up being half as much as last time I went, in other words not worth $4 or even $3. I will not be going again, I hope aramark improves or at least loses the contract next time it is up for bid.

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